So, you’re going to have a tooth removed – chances are there are a few things you’re thinking about. Is it going to hurt? What can you eat afterwards? Are you going to look like a chipmunk for days? Those I can’t answer – but, if ‘can you exercise after tooth extraction?’ is also on your list of questions here’s what you need to know…
The very short answer to whether it’s okay to workout after tooth extraction is no, not straight away – but for the nitty-gritty of how long you need to take off and why I spoke to cosmetic and general dentist Dr Zainab Al- Mukhtar who works her magic on teeth (including removing some) at Harrow On The Hill Dental & Facial Aesthetics in Middlesex.
Why You Can’t Exercise After Tooth Extraction
‘Once you’ve had a tooth removed, there’s a clot that needs to form in the hole created within the first 24 hours. It is important this clot remains in the socket, acting as a plug. Dislodging this clot will cause post-op bleeding, and slow down the healing of the socket. Exercise can cause the clot to become dislodged,’ says Dr Al Mukhtar.
She explains that the main type of exercise that can cause this is cardio – ie running, cycling, aerobics, which raises blood pressure and body temperature. ‘But other exercises that also induce these reactions may cause problems – and these can include Bikram yoga. It can also happen from lifting heavy weights.’
Because of this, Dr Al Mukhtar says it’s especially important to avoid any exercise in the first 24 hours after an extraction. After the first 24 hours, the clot is more stable so gentle exercise is less of a concern but the first 48 hours also need some modification to your usual exercise routine.
‘Keep it slow and light intensity, avoiding any exercise that elevates blood pressure, body temperature, and pressure in the head and mouth,’ she told us. That means that if you’re planning yoga after tooth extraction, you’re going to want to avoid anything with an inverted posture. And whatever you’re doing – keep breathing. Holding your breath increases pressure in the body that raises blood pressure.
‘Light-weights that don’t cause much exertion should be fine as is going for a walk. Range of motion exercises are fine to mobilise body joints etc but avoid anything more strenuous,’ says Dr Al Mukhtar. Once 48 hours are up, listen to your body and only do what you feel you’re capable of.
Things that cause excessive temperature elevation like going in the sauna or steam room should also be avoided in the first few days.
Is This the Same After Wisdom Tooth Removal?
Wisdom teeth can be tricky suckers – some slip out no problem, others, like mine, come out in about 20 tiny pieces, the really evil ones need a little bit of bone-cutting to remove them and so, we wondered whether the rules are different for exercise after wisdom tooth removal.
‘If it’s a straightforward wisdom tooth extraction then the same recommendations apply as above,’ says Dr Al Mukhtar.
‘If on the other hand surgery was needed, involving an incision in the gum and bone removal, then there is likely to be more post-op pain and risk of infection. Therefore clot stability is vital to protect the socket and having excess bleeding post-op is not good.
There would be stitches in this scenario so the socket is closed and usually helps reduce the clot dislodging. However, exercise can still cause bleeding and compromise the quality of the plug and post-op healing.’
In this case, you’ll need to speak to your dentist about exactly when you can go back to working out and how as it depends on how much surgical work can be done. A week or more’s rest from strenuous exercise can be commonly recommended.
If that’s sent you into a panic, have look at this piece on exercise after microblading which gives some reassuring advice on why a longer break doesn’t mean starting from scratch with your fitness.
Also, don’t forget that you’re possibly not going to be able to eat your normal diet after wisdom tooth extraction which might also limit how and when you’re going to want to workout.
Personally, I quite enjoyed sitting on the sofa with a pot of hummus and spoon for a few days when mine was removed!
Dry Socket – and Why You Don’t Want It
The reason Dr Al Mukhtar keeps talking about keeping that clot in place is that it helps protect against a complication called dry socket.
This is where the clot moves leaving the nerves and bone exposed and it can cause serious pain (and few other complications).
Dry socket can occur after any tooth extraction, but it’s more common after wisdom tooth extraction (although it’s still pretty rare). If you do suddenly get pain in the days after your extraction, call your dentist surgery for advice.
Can You Workout Before Your Appointment?
If you’re nervous about going to the dentist, or just worried about fitting in exercise after getting your tooth pulled, it might seem like a good idea to go to the gym before your dentist appointment to calm your concerns, but…
‘Working out just before the appointment is also not advisable due to elevation of blood pressure and temperature which can cause prolonged bleeding after extraction, though this can be dealt with by the dentist, it is not ideal as we want a clot to develop as quickly as possible to minimise unnecessary blood loss and aid healing,’ says Dr Al Mukhtar.
‘Working out a day before is not a problem but it’s not advised the same day and definitely not just before the visit.’
Can Exercise Affect Cosmetic Dental Work?
As Dr Al Mukhtar also does a lot of cosmetic work in her practise, I figured I’d also ask her about cosmetic dentistry and whether there was any reason why you shouldn’t exercise after cosmetic dental work?
‘There is no issue with exercise after non-invasive cosmetic dentistry in general. But procedures involving any sort of surgery to the gum – gum lifts, gum grafts, and even a very deep gum treatment for gum disease with the hygienist or gum specialist, would warrant extra care. Again, I’d say not to exercise again for about a day to minimise post-op bleeding and associated complications,’ she told me.
However, she then goes on to add that the main contraindications to do with exercise and cosmetic dental work are to with damaging the results. ‘If you do impact sports, these will have a higher chance of fracturing porcelain restorations like veneers. Bite guards should be made for athletic people involved in contact sports.
Some people who lift heavy weights clench excessively which can break teeth and fillings and crowns and veneers, this is another risk factor but again is a long term issue, not something that will happen only a day or so after fitting these dental restorations.’
Oh, and if you’ve forked out for bleaching – be careful if you swim every day. Research suggests that chlorine in pools can lead to darkening of the tooth.
It won’t matter if you just have the odd dip, but a study of competitive swimmers spending about six hours in the pool a week, found 60 per cent of them had some kind of level of staining on their teeth. Rinse your mouth when you get out of the pool.
Some dentists also offer botox and fillers as part of their aesthetic practice. If you are planning on either of these, you’re going to want to check out the rules on exercise after botox and exercise after lip injections or dermal fillers. Again, there are a few rules you need to follow.
Watch Out For Painkillers
Lastly, the other reason you might want to put off your gym visit after having a tooth pulled, getting new veneers or, even having a filling, is the painkillers and anaesthetics used might affect you for a little while.
‘Anyone who has had sedation during any kind of dental appointment should not exercise for at least 24 hours after,’ says Dr Al Mukhtar and with some pain killers like codeine, exercise should be avoided till the effects wear off. This can be up to 12 hours after.
Local anaesthetic can cause a numb lip for a few hours after and I would advise patients to avoid exercise with a numb lip to avoid the urge or mistake of unknowingly biting the lip or clenching on the lip during strenuous exercise.’
Lastly, watch out if you’re taking over the counter painkillers – particularly ibuprofen. One study by researchers in The Netherlands found that ibuprofen taken before hard exercise (ie fast running or cycling) causes temporary damage to the stomach lining which may limit nutrient absorption or increase risk of food poisoning for the next few hours.
So there you have it, all the rules for exercise after a tooth extraction. Now, enjoy your time on the sofa.